Amy Umble writes about family issues and kid-friendly events.
The Twelve (or so) Days of Christmas (break)
For most students in our area, this is the last week of classes before holiday break. Just about everyone will get back to work on Jan. 3, but the length of these breaks ranges. Spotsylvania students have their last day of class on Tuesday, and have the longest break at 13 days, while Stafford County students will be in class through Friday, for only nine days off.
While there’s usually plenty of travel, family events and last-minute holiday planning to fit into this time, it is winter, and your kids are home, so you’re bound to find yourself asking, “What should we do?” to make the most of it.
Here, we offer our own 13 days of holiday activities in and around our region to help you get out of the house this holiday break.
Dec. 21: Swing by Ferry Farm to enjoy the 25th annual exhibit of gingerbread houses. The exhibit is open Dec. 3 through 30 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children. Find more information here.
Dec. 22: Take in the holiday lights displays around our area. Columnist Rob Hedelt has a complete list of those most worth checking out. Find it here.
Dec. 23: Enjoy a “Night Before Christmas” hayride at Caledon Natural Area in King George. Bring a warm blanket, your singing voice, and a sense of humor for this holiday hayride. Their wagon will be decked out for the holidays as you and your family carol through the forest. After the hayride the group will return to the visitors center for a cup of hot chocolate and a reading of The Night Before Christmas. Call the park for more info and to make the required reservations. Rides are at 6:30 and 8 p.m. and cost $3 per person or $8 per family.
Dec. 24: Pack the family into the car to check out the Christmas lights display at Mr. B’s Park in Caroline County. The park is located off I-95 Exit 110 at the corner of US Rt.1 and Gatewood Road, one mile north of the Ladysmith Road intersection. Take a driving tour through the park for only $5 a car and $20 per bus. New this year is Christmas Tree Lane. Plus, enjoy all the festive displays with homemade cookies, hot cocoa, and apple cider for sale. Open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Dec. 25: Share your Christmas Day with Rikki’s Refuge beloved animals. Give Christmas treats to Rikki’s 1,200 critters ranging from jolly pot-bellied pigs to merry pygmy goats. Our Nanny Goat loves celery and broccoli, Little Rob, the pot-bellied pig, loves sweet potatoes, and our very own Vincent D. Cat loves his Fancy Feast! The gates open at 1130 AM and the tour starts at 12 PM. This enchanting tour is outdoors so please dress for the weather and critters. Visitors are asked to bring 3 cans of cat or dog food per person, or fruit and veggies for the other critters as a “Christmas gift” to the animals.
Dec. 26: Exchanging gifts? Cap off a trip to Spotsylvania Towne Centre with its free Concert in Lights. We’ll be honest–this show is not worth planning an entire trip to the mall around, but it could be a bright spot in an otherwise tiring outing of shopping with the kids. Four hourly shows per night will run through New Years Eve. Find more information here.
Dec. 27: Need something non-Christmas? Beauty & The Beast is playing through Jan. 21 at the Riverside Theater. Get info and tickets here.
Dec. 28: White Buffalo Farm, just off Route 20 near Locust Grove, is offering “Beginning Horseback For All,” lessons for ages 7 through adult. City of Fredericksburg residents get a discount on these lessons, and registration is required. Learn more by calling 540/372-1086.
Dec .29: Splurge on a trip up to National Harbor, just over the Maryland border, to take in “ICE! Featuring DreamWorks’ Merry Madagascar,” a village of ice sculptures (you’ll want heavy coats). Learn more here.
Dec. 30: Prepare for a festive New Years Eve with a Jingle Bell Carriage Ride from Olde Towne Carriages. These depart from the City Visitors Center on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg. They include holiday music, cookies, hot chocolate and warm blankets. Travel Caroline Street to see decorated store windows and Lower Princess Anne Street to admire its grand homes. A carriage holds four to six people. Reservations required. This is the last day these will be offered. Cost is $75 per carriage.
Dec. 31: Downtown Fredericksburg will host First Night, a family friendly New Years celebration with a focus on the arts. All the information you need can be found here.
Jan. 1: You have to have at least one day of downtime, right? Make a big breakfast (or get your collards and black-eyed peas started) pull out the board games and DVDs and celebrate the year ahead with your kids. Maybe even catch a nap to make up for the fact that you stayed up past 10 p.m. last night.
Jan. 2: Up for a drive? Take the kids to Richmond for the evening to take in the Dominion GardenFest of Lights at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The show features more than a half million lights, botanical decorations, trains, holiday dinners, family activities and more. The display runs nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. Admission is $11 adults; $10 seniors; $7 children ages 3 – 12; children under age 3 free. Find more information here. Runs through Jan. 9.